Synopsis: Archer brings Surak’s teachings to Vulcan, T’Pol leaves her husband and Trip annoys both Andorians and Vulcans.
Review: The final third part of the Vulcan arc is the most action packed of the three paying off on much of the material that had been set up by the far slower and often more turgid previous two episodes. Ultimately a lot of the action scenes such as Archer fighting the Vulcans as T’Pol is captured are superfluous and really don’t do much for the story but they still speed up the pace and make the episode flow quicker at the very least as a substitute for much of the pointless arguments that characterized Awakening. The highlight of the episode though is unsurprisingly enough Shran who thanks to Jeffrey Combs always wonderful performances immediately brings life to any scene or episode.
Indeed Shran’s scenes with Ambassador Soval are the most compelling moments that Kir’Shara or any episode in the three part arc or for that matter this season have to offer and are highly reminiscent of Garak’s interrogations of Odo. This is of course somewhat ironic since these scenes also stray from the episode’s format of ‘Archer with Surak in his Head Saves Vulcan’ but at the same time point the way to something far deeper which is Andorian and Vulcan reconciliation. The reconciliation of a clash of opposing philosophies between Andorian aggression and self-centeredness and Vulcan non-violence and self-awareness would have made for some compelling material. Particularly as Soval appears to be the last Vulcan on Enterprise actually acting like a Vulcan instead of a human with pointy ears.
Unfortunately any of this is scrapped in favor of the culmination of four years of evil Vulcan plots on Enterprise with the most evil Vulcan of all as V’Las continues behaving like a completely demented and unhinged villain. He’s not acting like a Vulcan or even a Romulan but every villain cliche in the book right down to detaining a minister who protests against his actions. And of course his downfall comes in cliched villain style as Archer and T’Pau saunter into the room and put everything to rights in a matter of minutes. Sense this makes little, as Yoda might say.
First we begin with the premise that the Vulcan High Command completely warped Vulcan philosophy. How long this has been going on for is entirely unknown but since Vulcans aren’t disagreeing with them combined with the Vulcan lifespan one would suspect a figure of at least five centuries or maybe a thousand years. A few Romulan collaborators fail to explain all this. Furthermore this twist ending dodges the complex questions the episode posed initially about the authenticity of the transmission of religious teachings and the nature of Vulcans. It reduces a complex philosophical debate to a matter of punching out or Vulcan neck pinching the right guy at the right time. And thus complex religious and philosophical problems are resolved.
In Awakening Surak claimed that even Syran himself was too corrupted to properly be the guardian of his teachings, by Kir’Shara simply flashing some of Surak’s teaching on a holographic screen was enough to end all the violence. And what key element does Archer bring to all this that he needed to be selected above anyone else to be the savior of Vulcan morality? Well he punches people a lot. He also seems to have little trouble defeating Vulcans in hand to hand combat despite the complete strength inequities. Rather than any kind of revelation or meaningful conclusion all Kir’Shara really offers is a standard villain’s downfall plot that in this case doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense.
It remains then for the showdown between the Andorian and Vulcan fleets to offer what little suspense the episode has to offer. And here Jeffery Coombs and Gary Graham’s performances continue to stand out and even Trip does a surprisingly competent job in command. It’s possible to quibble that humans are once again getting foolishly involved in a conflict between two species, either of which could blow the Enterprise to bits, but the door closed on that particular objection years ago. Still Enterprise attacking a Vulcan cruiser, considering the disparity in firepower hangs on the lunatic fringe. As it taking sides in a conflict in which neither side is all that clean.
All in all Kir’Shrara contributes some interesting elements to the Enterprise reinterpretation of the STAR TREK universe. Its touches of continuity drawn on the STAR TREK universe are nice as are the attempts to bring Enterprise continuity closer in line to the continuity of the STAR TREK universe. Nevertheless the three-part arc suffers from serious writing handicaps and the Augments arc did a far more credible job dramatically because ultimately it knew what it was about. It was about the tragic failure of a single man. What is the Vulcan arc about? Religious or philosophical truth? Archer learning to accept Vulcans? T’Pol learning to accept her mother? Discovering that T’Pau liked to wear gaudy makeup when she was young? The relationship between Humans and Vulcans? Vulcans and Andorians? All of these and more are present and none of these are properly executed or concluded.
Instead the three-part arc essentially consists of the search for a magical artifact that will set all problems to right. This is a rather simple and classic story. However its execution is crude and stumbles repeatedly. The discovery of the artifact is repeatedly dragged out and its use is too simplistic and anti-climactic. The Augments arc was a tragedy. The Vulcan arc veers between Archer Jones and the Holographic Vulcan Tablets of Wisdom and muddled and unfocused character melodrama. Neither makes proper use of Vulcan and Vulcans. Neither addresses the philosophical issues the episodes try fitfully to raise. Archer Jones and the Holographic Vulcan Tablets of Wisdom occasionally makes for entertaining viewing, particularly in The Forge and Kir’Shara. But as Yoda might or might not say, yet not in Archer punching people a lot does a good episode lie.
Finally continuity is important but continuity cannot and does not substitute for good writing, for good drama or for a good episode. Continuity is like the binding of a book. Without it all you have are loose pages. But if there’s nothing worth reading on the pages, what use is the continuity?
Next week: Super-intelligent and genetically engineered reruns.